Monday, November 19, 2018

Super Start to the 2018-19 Maine Ski Season

We have been very fortunate this year with the start to the ski season in Maine and New England. Many areas have received generous amounts of early-season snowfall and the temperatures have been very favorable for snow making... and that forecast looks good too!

Between all of the @MaineSportsFam crew we have over 9 ski days under our belts. Early season at Sunday River as been fun. The Rivah did a fantastic job getting the mountain open early as they do every year and provided some fun early season turns. Then we really had a great day at Sugarloaf on November 18th. They have been able to rapidly open terrain off the Superquad lift. Blue and Black Cruisers Kings Landing, Hayburner, Tote Road and Candyside were groomed and skied very well, and a bunch of natural terrain was open too. Even though it has been skied hard the cold temps and deep cover is holding up well. We had our early season legs so we tired quickly... but we certainly enjoyed ourselves.

This is shaping up to be one of the best Thanksgiving holiday skiing periods... EVAH. We highly recommend getting out skiing an taking advantage of it! Here are a few pics from our Sugarloaf ski day.

We wish you a blessed and peaceful Thanksgiving.

Hayburner skied very well with plenty of soft snow on the sides.

Boy #2 with the big grab on Tote Road

It was really hard to believe it was November 18. Looks like mid-winter.

Towards the end of the day the winds died down and the snow making crystals created rainbows.

Thursday, October 4, 2018

Maine Ski Area Season Pass Guide

A year with no pass = awesome ticket collection
It is the time of year where skiers thoughts turn towards making ski plans for the 2018-19 ski season. There is a certain calculus to making a ski pass decision. You have to figure out how much time you are going be skiing this year and if you have saved up enough money to plunk down a good chunk of change to make a pass purchase. If you do buy a pass you want to make sure you visit the mountain enough so that the number of trips divided by the pass price is less than a daily lift ticket. Some folks like to have a "home mountain" while others prefer to ski different ski areas over the course of the winter season.

We were Saddleback pass holders for a long time. Now that Saddleback is no longer an option, we have migrated to Sugarloaf. For the adults in our family we buy silver level passes. This pass level gives us access to Sunday River and has 12 blackout dates. Our now adult kids get the 20's and college passes. We actually don't mind the blackout dates as it gives us more of an opportunity to ski other areas like Mt. Abram, Black, Shawnee Peak, Titcomb, Lost Valley and other smaller, but awesome, ski areas in Maine.

Here is a listing of all the Maine ski areas and links to the 2018-19 pass options I could find:

Sugarloaf / Sunday River - They have a myriad of pass options from youth, teen, Maine students, college, adult with varying amounts of access and blackout dates. Prices range from $249 all the way up to $1,439. A Gold level full-access adult pass is $1,199. Most of the pass options allow you to ski Sugarloaf, Sunday River and Loon Mountain in New Hampshire on the same pass. Sunday River is usually the first to open in Maine and Sugaloaf is the last to close and both offer some of the BEST skiing and riding the east. Prices go up October 8th and based on past years, I estimate the price jump will be about $50.

Shawnee Peak - Shawnee Peak is a great option for southern Maine as it is close to the Portland area, and offers some really good day and night skiing. They have some interesting pass options like night skiing only, Sunday's only, First Responder's plus pass holders get 40% off tickets if you venture out west to Jackson Hole.  Full adult pass is $760 with a variety of age and access options for other pass levels.

Titcomb Mountain - This community hill in Farmington has an active vibe with the University of Maine at Farmington and Mt. Blue high school ski communities skiing with the locals. Their website was down at this writing but keep an eye on this link for pass pricing information.

The following mountains (Mt. Abram, Black, Lost Valley, Big Rock and Camden) have partnered to offer half prices tickets. So if you buy a pass at one mountain, you can buy half price day lift tickets at the other mountains in this group.

Mt. Abram - This great ski area in Greenwood has a variety of pass options from little tots, teens, adults, full family and 80+. There is some tremendous skiing at this mountain and has a great, separate learning area with its own lift providing a great option for families. We always make sure to get to Mt. Abram at least a couple of times a year. They are generally open Thursday - Sunday and holiday weeks. Full adult pass is $609 with a variety of age options.

Black Mountain of Maine - Black is another ski area gem located in Rumford. The Angry Beavers volunteer glade cutters have created a fantastic network of glades and the area continues to improve its snow making capabilities. They are generally open Friday - Sunday and holiday weeks. Their pass pricing is super simple (and affordable). $405 gets you a non-resident pass all-ages ($360 Rumford residents) with prices going up December 1. Under 2nd grade and 75 and over ski free. (url link below references prior year but appears to go to the 2018-19 information)

Lost Valley - Located in Auburn, this great learn to ski / have fun ski hill that is easily accessible and under a second year of new ownership. They have recently opened an on-mountain brewery. They also offer great night skiing and are open 7 days a week during the peak season. Adult (13 and up) passes are $499 with child, junior and family options available.

Big Rock - This mountain located in Mars Hill up in Aroostook county offers some tremendous skiing. We have skied here a couple of times and have really enjoyed it. One of the bigger of the smaller Maine ski areas (1000 foot vertical drop) with terrain for all abilities. They are generally open Wednesday - Sunday and holiday weeks. Keep an eye on their web page for season pass pricing announcement.

Camden Snow Bowl - Not too many ski areas can claim views of the Atlantic ocean and a lot of improvements have been made over the past couple of years including new chair lifts and snow making. There have been some leadership bumps in the improvement road but new management is in place and they are looking towards a bright future. We have had some great ski days at Camden. Early bird pricing currently in place through October 31 (Adult $299 Camden Resident, $429 non-resident) with student, military, youth and senior options. The prices go up quite dramatically November 1 so buy now! 

Here are links to other mountains in Maine and pass pricing / ticketing information. We haven't visited these ski areas so I offer them without commentary, but all of these areas provide an opportunity to get outdoors in the winter. A must if you want to enjoy all that Maine has to offer!

New Hermon Mountain (Hermon) -

Mt. Jefferson (Lee) -

Powderhouse Hill (South Berwick) -

Quoggy Jo (Presque Isle) -

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Maine Ski Swap Guide

Last updated November 12, 2018

Here is the 2018 edition of the @MaineSkiFamily ski swap guide. Over the past years, I have
posted dates, times and locations of Maine based ski swaps and I am doing the same this year. It is by far the most popular page on my blog so please use this listing guide and spread the word! If there is a swap that you know of missing from the list please comment below or email me

The Ski Swap Line - A sign of winter to come!
If you are new to ski swaps, you can read my post on Ski Swap Strategies.

Looking for a 2018-19 season pass to a Maine ski mountain? Check out my Maine Ski Area Season Pass Guide

To stay up to date on all things Maine skiing, please like my Facebook Page You can also follow me on Twitter & Instagram for skiing and other usually sports & weather related ramblings.

Happy Swapping!

6th - The Rack at Sugarloaf is hosting a "Tailgate Ski and Swap" in their parking lot. Buy and sell ski gear right from your vehicle! Check out The Rack's web page for more info.

6th - 8th - Happy Tunes in Carrabassett Valley is having a Ski and Kayak swap over the Sugarloaf Homecoming (Columbus Day) weekend. Check out this link FMI.

13th - The Penobscot Valley Ski Club is holding their annual ski sale Saturday, October 13th from 8:00am to 2:00pm at the Bangor Parks and Rec building. Keep an eye on their Facebook Page FMI.

20th - Central Maine Ski Club is hosting a Ski-Skate Swap on Saturday, October 20th, 9:00am to 3:00pm at the George J. Mitchell School in Waterville. Equipment drop off Friday 4:00pm to 8:00pm and by appointment. Keep an eye on their website FMI and/or contact Scott Beale (, 207-660-2043). 

20th - Gorham Bike and Ski in Portland is having a Used Downhill Ski, Snowboard and Cross Country Ski Tent Sale. You can find out more info and how to sell your used gear by clicking here.

26th - 27th - The Bethel Outing Club is having their 37th annual a ski swap  / sale over two days at the Gould Academy Field House. Click here for more info.


3rd - Allspeed Cyclery and Snow  will host a Ski Swap at their Portland location Saturday, November 3rd from 10:00am to 6:00pm. Check out their Facebook page FMI.

3rd - The Freeport Ski Boosters will have a swap from 9:30am - 12:30pm in the Freeport High School Gym. Again this year Sport Thoma will be participating along with new vendors Akers (Nordic) and Long’s Board Shop (snowboards). Click here FMI.

3rd - The Farmington Ski Club will hold its 36th Winter Equipment Sale at the Mt. Blue High School Gym November 3rd from 9:00am to 1:00pm. Click here to see the sale poster.

4th - The Brunswick Parks and Recreation Department will hold its 51st Annual Ski and Skate Sale on Sunday, November 4th, 1:00pm to 4:00pm and the Brunswick Recreation Center. FMI click here.

4th - Quoggy Jo ski area is hosting a ski sale at the Presque Isle Sargent Family Community Center November 4th from 1:00pm to 3:00pm. Click here FMI.

11th - The Auburn Ski Association will have their 55th Annual Ski Swap on Sunday, November 11th, 9:00am to 2:00pm at the Auburn Middle School. Gear to sell drop-off is 1:00pm to 4:00pm on Saturday. See their Facebook event page for more information.

17th-18th - Camden Hills Regional High School Ski Sale Sale & Swap takes place Saturday from 9am - 1pm and Sunday from 10am - 1:30pm. Click here for more info.

17th - The Yarmouth Ski Swap takes place Saturday, November 17th from 9:00am to 12:00pm at the Yarmouth Elementary School. More info at the Maine High School Skiing Website.

18th - The Lonesome Pine Ski Area in Fort Kent will have a ski swap on Saturday, November 18 from 12:00pm to 4:00pm. Email for more information.

24th - Downeast Ski Club ski sale is held annually the Saturday after Thanksgiving at the Portland Expo. More info here.


1st - The Greely Ski Swap & Sale will be held December 1st 9:00am to 1:00pm at Greely High School in Cumberland. More info at Maine High School Skiing website.

1st - The Bigrock Ski Area in Mars Hill will have a ski swap Saturday, December 1st from 11:00am to 2:00pm. Email for more information.

2nd - The Falmouth Ski Swap & Sale will be held from 9:00am to 12:00pm at the Falmouth Middle School. Drop off Saturday, December 1st from 2:00pm to 5:00pm. FMI 207.899.7641

As I receive confirmation of other 2018 swaps I will be updating this blog post. Feel free to comment on the post if you know of other Maine based swaps that are happening and I will update the list.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Skiing, Saddleback, a State Championship and a Final Four


Despite my busy basketball public address announcer schedule, I have been able to enjoy the "Miracle March" on the slopes of Maine. The snow quality this season through February had been hit or miss, but a couple of impressive March snow storms resulted in 50+" of new snow in the mountains of Maine resulting in some pretty incredible skiing. We had a great day skiing Sugarloaf March 11th.

We have been able to launch ourselves down the front face of Sugarloaf including skiing Bubble Cuffer Extension and Powder Keg trails for the first time. We are hoping a little more snow that is forecasted this week adds to the base even more and that the backside snowfields of Sugarloaf will be in-play this coming weekend. Sugarloaf has some pretty incredible terrain above the treeline, and the snow has made all the trails from beginner-green to expert double-black super-fun. They are now set up for a stellar late winter & spring. I have always said March is by far the best month to ski in Maine! The snow is usually deep and when it isn't snowing, the sun is shining higher in the sky. Can't beat it!


The Saddleback ownership situation continues to drag on. Majella  started out with best of intentions with their big announcement last June in regards to their future plans with the resort. However, the financing the deal has hit some snags. Occasionally a newspaper / TV story hits that creates a flurry of speculation and opinions on social networks, message boards, print and broadcast media. We are all just guessing at this point as all the parties involved are not talking much. It seems we are no closer to a final answer than we were last June.

I wrote a post back in June on the potential sale and I wrote we will have to be patient. I was thinking we were needing to be patient on getting the mountain open. It seems that we have to be patient just getting the sale done. Regardless, staying patient still holds true today and I will hope and pray this comes to a successful conclusion soon so we can ski a lift-serviced Saddleback again.

A State Championship...

As I mentioned in my last post about this public address announcing hobby of mine, I was able to be the PA announcer for the America East college women's basketball championship and Bowdoin College Women's Basketball 1st-2nd Round NCAA games (more on that later). I also was able to tick off a "bucket list" event in doing PA for a Maine State Championship basketball game for the first time. Outside of my microphone not working at the start of the boys game (it worked the entire girls game before - what gives!) I recovered and I was able to have a great experience. I hopefully made a positive impact on the game experience for the fans and most importantly the players.

The games were televised to a statewide audience on MPBN, and here is a video recording my myself doing the team introductions for Greely and Hampden Academy boys teams. It was a lot of fun!

And a Final Four...

And what a run for the Bowdoin College Women's basketball team in the NCAA Division 3 Women's Basketball Championship! I was on the PA for their first two NCAA home games (victories over Husson & FDU) which ushered them into the Sweet 16. A great crowd was on-hand at Morrell gym to cheer the team on to victory.

Then I watched them on-line from home as they traveled to Scranton, PA and beat Scranton on their home floor.  Then they defeated NESCAC rival Tufts to punch their ticket to the Final Four!!! What a moment!

What an awesome accomplishment for this team! The Final Four was in Rochester, Minnesota over this past weekend (March 16-17) and I was able to re-route my return from a west coast business trip to watch the team play. It was a really fun experience and the team parents, alumni & Bowdoin staff were very gracious for letting the PA guy for tag along for the Bowdoin receptions and final four events. It was good to get to know the parents off the court. They are a great group of people with some great kids!

In the national semi-final Bowdoin had a tall order. They were taking on undefeated Wartburg from Waverly, Iowa. (Little known fact is that I lived in Waverly Iowa for a year when I was 4 years old.) Waverly is only about a 1.5 hour drive to the Mayo Civic Center in Rochester and they brought an impressive number of fans filling up one side of the arena in bright orange. However, the Bowdoin women fed off this energy, played an exceptional game and ran Wartburg right out of the gym by a 90-62 score. It was a most impressive performance and it was safe to say I was excited for the victory.

Being a fan during a game is MUCH DIFFERENT than being on the PA. While doing PA I want my home team to do well and I might lean into the home team calls a bit more when they make a great play. However,  I am quite busy keeping track of the game action and making sure I do a professional job for both teams and fans in the gym. So I don't really get TOO excited. However, when I am "just" a fan... I can cheer as much as I want! It was great to experience to be a fan in a Final Four setting. I lost my voice at halftime due to cheering so much.

Bowdoin met NESCAC rival Amherst in the national championship game. It was close through three quarters, but in the end just not enough buckets fell through the hoop for the Polar Bears. What a 6 game NCAA run Bowdoin had. The players and Coach Shibles will have memories that they will cherish for a lifetime. Bowdoin seniors Kate Kerrigan, Lydia Caputi and Lauren Petit will be missed but a lot of great players are coming back too. The future is bright for Bowdoin basketball.

So I take the spring and summer off from PA duties but I am already looking forward to fall football starting up. I will be covering Freeport and Bowdoin football as usual, but new this fall I will be on the PA for the 4 of the 5 home games for the first year University of New England football program. Til then, golf, fishing and family camp time will fill up my spring and summer... after a few more ski trips this March, April and maybe even May! See you on the ski slopes and sporting fields of Maine!

A post shared by Michael Salisbury (@mainesportsfamily) on

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Reflections on the 2018 Maine High School Basketball Tournament

The whirlwind intensity and excitement of the Maine high school basketball tournament in Portland, Bangor and Augusta is over and regional champions have been crowned in all 5 classes. Now it is "just" the state championships left. I was the Public Address announcer for about a dozen games in the Portland tournament and played music for a handful more. I also got a bit of skiing in at Sugarloaf too. Unfortunately I had a minor hyper-extension of my knee when skiing last week so I am writing this blog instead of skiing on this Sunday morning. However, I feel 90% back which is good... but I just don't want to push it today.

It is a really fun week of basketball and here are a few reflections on the week.

As I wrote in my post describing my PA announcer journey, being the announcer for the Maine high school tournament games is an absolute thrill for me. I hope the players and the fans carry with them many positive memories from these games. Here is a short snippet of me calling out the starters at one of the games I did this week.

It takes many hands

Being part of the tournament PA team gives me a glimpse behind of the scenes of the many hands and hard work it takes to administer a tournament. While I sat at the scorers table along with the scorer, timekeeper and scoreboard operator, who spent many hours making sure the games themselves ran smoothly, there are many more people behind the scenes making sure things go well for the teams involved. Ticket takers, finance, locker room attendants, ball persons, media relations, awards and countless other tasks are done by many capable hands. A special thanks to Portland's site administrator Gerry Durgin who leads the crew and spends countless hours running the tournament. His steady leadership and focus on the kids is key and I think the tournament is very well run under his guidance. I also very much enjoyed working with my fellow Portland site PA announcers Rich Peterson and the legendary Peter Gribbin. The Bangor and Augusta sites have great crews working hard to run the tournaments as well. Job well done by all involved I say!

Media Members

A shout-out to the media members too. The reporters and writers from the local TV and newspapers as well as the radio and on-line broadcasters who were at all the games working hard to shine a bright light on the players on the court. A lot of words were written & spoken, tweets sent, footage edited and broadcasts given by these folks. Great job by all!

A special call out to The Forecaster's Michael Hoffer. He has a unique position where he is able to write long-form game stories for his publication. He wrote a lot of words this week and did a great job as always. I know the teams in his coverage area really appreciate his game stories.

Freeport Boys & Girls

It was a great tournament week by my hometown Falcons. The boys won their preliminary game against Lisbon and lead the eventual southern division champion Wells late in the 4th quarter of their quarterfinal game. It had been 10 years since the last time the Freeport boys made it to Portland and they represented themselves very well. Coach Ridge and the boys should be able to take the experience of this week and build on it for next year. The future of the boys program is bright.

And what a run by the Freeport girls reaching the regional championship game! After close and exciting wins over Wells and Poland, they showed tremendous desire against Lake Region but they just couldn't get the shots to fall in the second half. The Lake Region defense had a lot to do with that and congratulations to the Lakers on a well deserved regional title. The first time in 41 years a Freeport girls team had made it to the regional final. What a run! Coach Hart is building a great program and the future is bright.

Even though my own kids are now out of school, I am so pleased our town and RSU (Freeport, Pownal, Durham) is supporting our schools. We had a tremendous crowd in Portland for all the playoff games. The RSU has recently supported bonds to renovate the high school and athletic fields as well as supporting school operating budgets each year. I think we are seeing the result of this investment play out in the classroom and on the athletic field. There are a lot of options in southern Maine for education and associated athletics. It is important that the public schools systems compete and provide high quality academic and co-curricular options for all. Hats off and thanks to the RSU towns for their great support.

Game of the Week

Each tournament week has a fair share of lopsided games. However, I was extremely fortunate this year that just about all the games I was PA announcer for were highly competitive. If I had to pick one game that stood out for me it was the Biddeford vs Brunswick Boys A-South quarterfinal. Brunswick made a furious comeback from down 8 points with under three minutes left to tie it up late. However, Biddeford's Zach Reali grabbed a rebound and scored as time expired to give Biddeford the win. It was an extremely well played game and you can't beat the excitement of a winning basket as time expires. As PA, it is really fun to be part of these close contests and help add to the exciting atmosphere in the arena.

No Dunking?

There was quite an uproar on social and print media in regards to technical fouls being given for dunking. Not all dunks got T's in this tournament, but this one did:

This lead to an interesting article from Travis Lazarczyk calling this the "dumbest rule in Maine Hoops". My take? He is right. For one, the high school rule on "grasping the rim" is inconsistently enforced. Some refs call any little rim grab on a dunk a T. Other refs let it go. The kids have no idea what to do. Secondly, every high school gym has break-away rims. Dunks are an exciting part of the game. I see it all the time in the college games I do. Players should be able to dunk, snap the rim and get his team fired up. It is not show-boating... it is part of the game! Time for the state officiating body to take another look at how this rule is interpreted and clarify it with the officials for the good of the game.

Overall I thought the officiating was satisfactory for the tournament. There were some good calls and bad calls but it is part of the game. Players make and miss shots, make assists and give the ball away on turnovers. Coaches make good and bad coaching decisions. The teams in the state finals are the ones that successfully managed all facets of the game, including how each game is being called by the officiating crew.

What's Next

March is a great time to ski in Maine, so I am looking forward to getting back on the slopes and have my fingers crossed for more winter weather in the mountains. I should be able to get a skiing post or two on this blog in the coming weeks! I do have at least one more busy weekend of basketball left with two and possibly three events I will PA for.
  • Class A State High School Basketball Championships - On Thursday, March 1, I will be on the PA mic for both the boys and girls Class A state title contests in Portland. Both Hampden and Greely are sending both their boys and girls teams to the games. What a great accomplishment for both of these programs and I am looking forward to be on the PA for two highly competitive state championship games. 
  • American East Women's Basketball Championships - I will be on the PA mic for 4 of the 6 America East games at Cross Insurance Arena March 3-4. I did these games last year and this is a great event. Most all the teams bring pep bands and energetic crowds to provide a lively atmosphere. If you are a fan of basketball I highly encourage you to check out this tournament. College Division 1 Women's basketball has highly skilled players that are fun to watch (and PA for). The UMaine women should will come into this tournament as a the #1 or #2 seed.
  • NCAA Division III Women's Basketball Tournament (hopefully CONFIRMED) - Unfortunately, the Bowdoin women bowed out of the NESCAC conference tournament in the semi-final round to a very strong Tufts team. However, with a record of 24-2 they still have a great chance to host at Bowdoin College the 1st and 2nd round of the NCAA Division III tournament March 2-3. With NCAA Division III, travel costs come into play when selecting host sites. Hopefully the geographic makeup of the tournament teams fall in Bowdoin' favor so they can host. We will find out on Monday. Regardless the Bowdoin women have had an outstanding season so far and will be looking to have a great NCAA tournament.
    • UPDATE - Bowdoin was selected as a host site! The are hosting Husson, Skidmore and FDU-Florham.
Til my next post, you can likely find me on a ski slope or basketball arena in Maine!

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

My PA Announcer Journey - In-Game Music

One of the things I have been able to do over the years in my journey as a public address announcer for sporting events is to provide in-game music for some of the events I cover. I mostly do this for the Freeport and Bowdoin football and basketball games. Since it is basketball season I thought I would go through some of my favorite go to songs for hoops.

Like public address announcing, you want the music to be part of the event... but not be THE event. As the PA Announcer, you don't want to be the balding middle aged guy only playing 80's hair metal. So you gotta mix in a bunch of song styles to fit the multiple generations in the stands. All the while you have to make sure the songs that are played are free of swears and generally are appropriate for all audiences. Not as easy as one would first think! The Google Lyrics website gets a lot of hits from me.

So here is a typical basketball game progression for me:

Typically, the players will provide a playlist of songs they want to warm up to. I don't play any of these player provided music lists without the express approval of the athletic director. I do have a mix of modern "clean language" songs (and instrumentals) ready to go, in case I need quickly play something during warm-ups. Some of the songs in my pregame list include 300 Violin Orchestra by Jorge Quintero, Black & Yellow (Instrumental) by Whiz Kalifa, Sail by AWOLNATION and Butterfly Effect by Travis Scott.

1 Minute Left in Warm-ups
At this point, I switch over to my music on my computer and I play Mighty Love by Eric Prydz. I find this an nice upbeat bridge song that builds up momentum over the minute in anticipation of the starting lineups introductions. In fact find a lot of modern dance music good for in-game play.

After the starting lineups are introduced:

It's time for the National Anthem. I have a good instrumental anthem that moves right along. I am not a fan of the long, drawn out anthem.

Opening Tip
After the anthem, it's time to announce a sportsmanship statement then the teams break their huddles to get ready for the opening tip. At this point I have a few songs on my go-to opening tip play list.

Right Now - Van Halen
Good opening song. Not overly fast but sets a good dramatic mood and a nice build up to the opening tip.

Wanna Be Starting Something - Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson is timeless. Great opening lines and beat for the opening tip.

Enter Sandman - Metallica
I use this more for football kickoffs... but if it is a big basketball game that is going to be action packed right from the opening tip, this is a good song to use.

Get Ready - 2 Unlimited
I save this song for the BIG GAME. If the gym is packed for a rivalry or playoff game and the fans are fired up, this song usually gets people clapping to the beat and supporting their teams.

In-Game Music
During breaks in the game (timeouts etc.) I try to match the songs with the mood in the gym. If the game is turning into a blowout, I go to my "Groove" playlists. These are songs that have a nice beat, but are not designed to get the audience fired up. It doesn't make sense to play Welcome to the Jungle by Guns N' Roses if a team is up by 40 points. So some examples of groove songs are Adventure of a Lifetime by Coldplay, Be Right There by Diplo or What is Love by Haddaway.

If it is close, especially in the second half, I break into the "Pump" playlists. I try to mix it up with classics for the gray hairs in the audience (including me) but try to mix in some more modern stuff so the students don't get incredibly annoyed. Think Good Feeling by Flo Rida, Let's Go by Calvin Harris or Rock You Like A Hurricane by Scorpions.

If the crowd is in a good mood during the 3rd & 4th quarter breaks I will play a dance song like the YMCA by The Village People or Macarena by Los Del Rio. This can be a lot of fun if the crowd lets themselves get into the groove a little bit.

I basically try to get most people in the audience tapping their feet, clapping their hands or swaying to the beat at some point in the game. I have a couple of hundred songs in these lists and I am always swapping songs in and out to keep things fresh.

I play mostly in small gyms, and music can be helpful during timeouts especially if the coach is upset and is giving his or her team a good yelling. The music covers over the voices and makes it more comfortable for all involved.

Then when if the game is close in the second half... and maybe the home team is behind by a point or two... at the end of a timeout I go to one of my 'Stadium Pump' playlist favorites to try to get the home crowd a bit more excited and supporting their team. I have about 20 songs to pick from but a couple of my favorites from this list are:

Strike It Up - Black Box
An oldie, but with a great opening and a timeless beat to get the crowd going.

We Will Rock You - Queen
Fans always clap along to this song. They can't help it!

I Like to Move It - Nicola Fasano
This one is a bit more modern and often gets fans clapping along as well.

And if it is a tie game with 10 seconds left, after a timeout Twilight Zone by 2 Unlimited is great as it fires up the crowd even more.

After hopefully a win by the home team, I like to send the fans home to:

Green Onions - Booker T. and the M.G.s
Classic Beat, Classic Song. Good one to be humming as the fans walk to their cars.

And in the case for the Bowdoin Women's Basketball team, after every win I play We Are Family by Sister Sledge. Appropriate song as this Bowdoin team plays as one family... and fortunately I get to play that song a lot!

It's a lot of juggling sometimes. Reading scripts, queuing music and figuring out what appropriate song to play next in a game. But it is a lot of fun!

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

My Public Address Announcer Journey

In casual conversations with folks, the topic often comes around to work and hobbies. Outside of my satisfying day job as a Director of a software company called Quantrix, one of the things I like to do is to be a public address announcer for sporting events. When I tell people that I am a public address announcer often the question I get is "You are on TV / Radio?". They are thinking that I am a sports broadcast commentator. At that point my response is "I am the guy you hear over the loudspeaker at a stadium." That usually clears it up most of the time. Then they ask "How did you get started doing that?".

This blog post is the long answer to that question. Being a PA announcer is one of those things that the fans don't always intentionally notice at a game but the PA announcer can be an important part of the game experience. Alternatively, it can be major distraction for the players and fans if done poorly. Here are some words about my journey to be a PA announcer.

Why be a PA Announcer?

It started in high school in the mid 1980's when I played for the Madison (Maine) High School Bulldogs basketball team. For the 1984-85 season I was fortunate
Newspaper photo from a tourney game at the Augusta Civic Center. I am #32.
to make the varsity team as a sophomore. We had a special team that year and played three tournament games at the Augusta Civic Center resulting in a regional championship. We played, and unfortunately lost, the state final in a close game at the historic Bangor Auditorium. I played for coach Jim Bessey. Coach Bessey was an intense coach and I did everything possible in practice to not give him a reason to yell at me! However, I learned a lot of valuable life lessons from Coach Bessey and I am glad I have had that experience.

Since I was buried on the bench my sophomore year, I was able to soak in the sights and sounds of the tournament games while cheering on my teammates. One of the things I noticed at these tournament games was the PA announcer and how it contributed to the arena atmosphere. Hearing the player names over the arena speakers... the roar of the crowd... the whole tournament arena experience was just really cool to me. Unfortunately my junior and senior year we never made it back down to Augusta so I never got to hear over the arena public address system:

"Starting at Guard... a 6 foot Senior... #32... Mike Salisbury!" 

However, the memory of that tournament run and experiencing the tournament atmosphere is still quite vivid for me.

Life rolled on. After college, I married my high school sweetheart and our two wonderful boys came into our lives. I would make occasional trips to the basketball tournament and local basketball games to soak in the sights and sounds of high school sports. I would always notice the PA announcer and wonder... could I do that? It became apparent early-on that my boys did not pick up any basketball genes (not that I had a whole bunch to give them) but the whole family developed a love for alpine skiing. Thus, I started up this ski blog to journal our adventures together and more recently, added a section to my blog titled Maine Sports to capture some other experiences.

The Beginning

In 2009 my dad passed away. He was a great man and was a fan of anything I or my family did. He was relatively young when he died of cancer. After he died, I thought to myself that my time on this earth is short and you need to scratch the itches while you can. Doing stadium public address announcing was just one of those itches for me.

Our hometown high school in Freeport, Maine was starting up a first year varsity football program. I sent a note to the football booster president that read:

"This may already be taken care of, but just wanted to check if you know who is going to be a PA announcer for the home Varsity football games this fall. I would have an interest in doing this if the football club is looking for someone. Thanks! -Mike"

Thankfully, I got an enthusiastic yes and I started to scratch that itch. Being a young football
program, wins were few and far between and I likely made a lot of mistakes on the microphone. However, going into it I had this rule in mind about how I was going to do PA announcing.

Doing PA for a Freeport HS Football Game
The PA announcers job is to shine the spotlight on the players on the field and keep the fans informed and engaged in the game action... And pronounce the player names correctly!

The game is not about me! When I leave a game I want people to think about the game itself. They should be reflecting on the thrilling plays, their son / daughter's / favorite player's effort and performance in the game and the excitement of the competition. If they are thinking about me, the PA announcer, after a game that is probably not a good thing. A good PA will fit into the flow of the game and be a natural part of the event. A good PA always checks name pronunciation's before games and does their best to get it right. A bad PA that yells, talks too much, fumbles excessively over names or is an overt cheerleader for the home team will stick out like sore thumb and detract from the game experience for all involved.

So I honed my craft with Freeport football and Freeport's Athletic Administrator Craig Sickles started having me do PA announcing for the basketball games as well. I started getting the hang of changing the inflection of my voice when the home team did something good, but always showing respect for the opponents. I stumbled over some tough names (and still do sometimes) but always checked pronunciations with coaches and did my best to get them right. I was starting to get pretty good and received a lot of positive compliments. I began to wonder if I could "move up" to bigger events. In order to do that I knew I needed to get more experience.

Bowdoin College

So I started to knock on some doors to see if I could do PA announcing for some different teams. One of these doors I knocked on was Bowdoin College. Via email and networking I started to make some contacts with the athletic administration at Bowdoin and my name was passed around to the appropriate people. Then in the summer of 2011, I got an email from Bowdoin's sports information director Jim Caton that said:

I'd like to gauge your interest in doing public address for our home football games this fall... we're beginning to 'raise our game' as far as game operations are concerned with football and I'd be interested in seeing if you'd like to give it a shot this autumn. 

I was in! Bowdoin football is one oldest programs around. The program started in 1889 and they play their games in a very historic setting at Whittier Field. I remember well my opening welcome to the fans over the PA system at my first game. I said the conference name as individual letters N-E-S-C-A-C instead of one word NESCAC. Jim was kind enough to gently correct me and I was off and running into a great partnership with Bowdoin and with Jim. Above is a recording of some in-game PA for Bowdoin Football.

I found the college football game fascinating. Even at Division III, these players are fast, strong and very athletic. These are former stars from their high school coming together to play on Saturday afternoons for their college team. It was my first experience to getting pre and in-game information from a sports information director, being prompted for in-game reads and interfacing with webcast game production hosts. A very professional production! My youngest son was able to spot for me so it was great to share that experience with him as well. Seeing the charcoal smoke rising from the tailgating lots filled to the brim with fans and experiencing the roar of the crowd during a big Colby vs. Bowdoin rivalry game was (and still is) a thrill to be part of.

Best seat in the house... Morrell Gym at Bowdoin College
I started to inquire with Jim if I could PA the Bowdoin basketball games, as basketball is really my first love for PA announcing. I had to wait a couple of season's as they already had an announcer but I was able to fill-in a couple of times. I was then offered the opportunity the main PA announcer for basketball in 2015 which I gladly accepted.

Basketball is a sport where as the PA announcer, you get the best seat at the house right at center court. You literally feel the energy of the game as they players run by, sense the anticipation of the substitutes waiting to check in and the hear the intensity of the coaches as they instruct their teams and argue with the officials. And like I experienced in college football, the college basketball game has a level of intensity and athleticism that is thrilling to be part of. I have been fortunate to be able to be the PA Announcer for NESCAC playoff and NCAA tournament basketball games that Bowdoin has hosted.

Being the PA announcer for the Bowdoin women's basketball program is especially rewarding for me. For one, they are consistently one of the best Division III basketball programs in the country. Secondly, their coach Adrienne Shibles is someone I have known since my childhood. Adrienne's mother and my mother were roommates and close friends at UMaine and our families often spent time together when I was growing up. I have fond memories of shooting baskets with Adrienne and her brother in their driveway and hitting baseballs over their chicken barn for home runs. Additionally, the Shibles family were very supportive of my family when my parents struggled with health issues. So it is gratifying for me to give back to Adrienne and her parents in a small way through my participation in her teams games as the PA announcer. This is a video of me doing the starting lineups for a Bowdoin Women's basketball game.

So while I love doing Bowdoin events, I still find time to do as many Freeport High School football and basketball games as possible. I don't want to forget where my roots are, and I enjoy helping the game experience for the fans and the student-athletes on the floor representing my home town.

The Journey to a Championship

Getting a couple of season's under my belt at Bowdoin really started to open some doors for me in the Maine PA announcer scene. I started doing PA for the Maine Sabers, a local semi-pro football team. I started knocking on the door of the Maine Principal's Association (MPA) which conducts the high school sports state championships. After a few knocks I was invited to do PA for a MPA State Field Hockey Championship which was a fun experience. I PA'd the Western Maine Conference Cheering championships which was immensely rewarding. Those cheerleading teams bring tremendous energy to the gym! Other local high schools started calling me to do fill-in's for football when their regular PA person could not make a game. My name was starting to get out there in the Maine PA circles. 

Still, I had a strong desire to do PA for the MPA Maine High School basketball tournament. I knocked on the door from time to time but all the PA spots were full. I was finding being a PA announcer for a state basketball tournament is a bit of a "lifetime appointment" so to speak. Then in the fall of 2016, I figured out the name of the site director for the basketball tournament in Portland. I emailed him directly asking about availability to PA the tournament and he responded that he would get back to me after an educational conference he was participating in concluded. I happened to know that Freeport's athletic adminstrator Craig Sickles was at that same conference. I quickly contacted Craig and he put in a good word for me. Luck be had there was an opening and soon after, I got an official invite to be part of the PA announcer team for the MPA basketball tournament. 

On February 12, 2016, I took a deep breath... tried to settle my nerves... and announced into the microphone:

"Good evening ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the Portland Exposition Building for the 2016 Maine High School Invitational Basketball Tournament..."

It was a "complete the circle" moment for me and a very satisfying feeling. Later in the tournament, I was able to PA the Boys Class A Regional Basketball Final at Cross Insurance Arena in Portland. It was a most rewarding experience!

What's Next

In January, 2017, I was invited to be the PA announcer at a Bowdoin Women's hockey game at Fenway Park in Boston. What a thrill to hear my voice bouncing around this historic venue as seen in the video below! I also PA'd my first MPA high school football state championship in the fall of 2017 at Fitzpatrick Stadium in Portland. In March, 2017, I was the PA announcer for the America East Conference Division I Women's basketball tournament in Portland and plan to do this event again in 2018. I continue to do PA for the MPA high school state basketball tournament in Portland. Of course Freeport and Bowdoin football and basketball are still mainstays on my schedule. Throughout all this I have enjoyed getting to know other PA announcers in Maine in-person and throughout the country via social media.

I am pretty happy doing what I am currently doing. I sometimes dream about being the PA announcer for the Celtics, or an NCAA Division I "March Madness" basketball tournament game or maybe even an NFL team. To get exposure for those opportunities I would have to move to a city. I love living in Maine with my family and enjoying the quality of life here. Moving to a city just does not appeal to me. I think I have a good sounding voice, but I don't have the 'big arena quality' voice some of those big time PA announcers have. PA announcing is a passion of mine but it would be difficult to make it a career. Most all of the PA's I know, even the ones I read about for professional teams, work a day job. Fortunately my day job gives me the flexibility to do PA announcing, and I am able to use the money I earn from PA announcing to pay for playing golf during the Maine summers. 

I ran into my high school basketball coach Jim Bessey at a game at Bowdoin in December, 2017. He is now an assistant coach at the University of Maine at Farmington and I had not seen him in over 25 years. After the game was over I re-introduced myself and we exchanged pleasantries. I told him I was the PA announcer for the game his team just played in and he said "I don't remember you having such a good voice Mike". I told him I was just the quiet kid at the end of his bench. Jim then told me "Yes that is right. You were buried on my bench!". I am surprised Coach Bessey didn't make me do wind sprints at that point! However, It was nice to receive a compliment from him on my PA abilities. He is not an easy man to impress.

Each of us has a passion. Some can turn those passions into a career. When that is not really possible, we have to fulfill and fit in our passions into our lives in the best way we know how. I am glad I am able to fulfill one of my passions through helping others enjoy participating in and watching sporting events in Maine. I will keep scratching that itch as long as I can!